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2017’s most popular 4x4s: Isuzu D-MAX

By Fraser Stronach, 14 Aug 2017 Reviews

2017 Isuzu D MAX main

#8: Recently upgraded D-MAX meets tighter emissions standards and gets new six-speed transmissions.

THE D-MAX’S year-on-year sales are the picture of consistency, with only 17 more units being sold in the first five months of 2017 as there was in 2016.

 Read more of 4X4's 2017 Most Popular Report Cards

And this steady-as-she-goes consistency is very much what the D-MAX’s sales have been about for a few years.

Isuzu D-MAX rearMind you, the D-MAX sold in 2017 is a different vehicle to the D-MAX sold in 2016, thanks to the mandatory compliance to Euro 5 emissions standards that came into effect in December 2016.

Effectively, Euro 5 brings a diesel particulate filter but, at the same time, Isuzu re-worked the engine with new-generation higher-pressure common-rail injection, a new variable-geometry low-inertia turbo, a larger EGR cooler, and new pistons.

There’s also a new Aisin six-speed automatic as used by Toyota in the Hilux and Prado, which has the same ratios including the two – notably tall – overdrives.

Despite the engine changes, maximum power remains at a modest 130kW, so the new D-MAX goes about as hard as the old D-MAX pedal-to-the-metal, which isn’t anything to get excited about. It does the job, but without the purpose and vigour of many competitor utes.

Isuzu D-MAX uteHowever, the engine remake provides more driveability with extra torque (now 430Nm, up from 380Nm) and a ‘fatter’ torque curve, which has the previous maximum of 380Nm produced 100rpm lower (now 1700rpm) and extending 700rpm higher to 3500rpm.

The engine is also a little quieter and more refined – but still nothing special in that regard – and a little more economical. And while the new six-speed auto doesn’t help with outright performance as such, it’s a much better gearbox in general driving thanks to its more proactive and smarter shift protocols.

On road, the D-MAX steers and handles well enough without being anything special, while off-road it’s also a middle-of-the-pack performer. It’s still a capable 4x4, but just not up with the best in its class.

2017 (to June): 4384
2016 (to June): 4367
Change: +0.4%

Powertrain: C
On-road: C
Off-road: C
Cabin & Equipment: C
Towing & Practicality: C
Final word: The D-MAX is solid, without being spectacular.

*Scored against class competitors. A= Excellent. B= Very Good. C= Good. D= Fair. E= Poor. F= Fail.